Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Homeschooling The Teen Years - Having Some Fun With a High School Diploma

This coming weekend A(age 18) will walk, Lord willing, with her fellow homeschool seniors in our local associations homeschool graduation ceremony (her final graduation of the season).  I decided this time to have some fun, and finally present her with a diploma that better reflects her homeschooling years than the stuffy, formal, but official type she already has from dealing with her junior college.

First of all, I made it a "homeschool" diploma rather than a "high school" diploma.  She is after all graduating from all of her homeschooling years.  We kept track of the children's school years, and the subjects might have changed somewhat as the children reached their teen years, but really we haven't had a distinct dividing line between elementary, middle and high school - so why should our diploma?

Secondly, I made it colorful, kind of like a preschool diploma.  Why not? While we have taken our academics seriously over the years, we've always tried to have fun with the learning process - kind of like preschool (but in a good a way).

Finally, I added a bunch of characters around the edges from some of A's favorite (and even some of her not so favorite - because I'm like that) educational shows, apps, and games.  I "borrowed" them from Google images, I'm sure they're all copyrighted, but since it's just for us I think that's still okay.  Most of these were from her younger years, but helped to form a big part of her educational foundation:

  • The gang from Cyberchase - math.
  • Muzzy - German, Spanish and French.
  • Professor Layton - logic and math.
  • Garfield Typing - keyboarding :)
  • The Magic School Bus - science.
  • Mouse Soup - the first "chapter book" each of the children read.
  • Peanuts - history and tradition (Thanksgiving).
  • Stanley - science, vocabulary and German (we have several episodes with German audio)
  • Liberty's Kids - American history
  • BrainPOP - science, social studies and English (for us).
  • Jumpstart - science, grammar and math.
  • Animal Crossing - science (identifying fish and insects)
  • Little Einsteins - music appreciation.
  • Fritz and Chesster - chess.
  • Max and Ruby, Kim Possible, Phineas and Ferb - how to be cool :) and a surprising number of other things.

Looking at this list, I'm realizing I might have to slip back into the file and add a couple more -  something from Phil Vischer for Bible, and I seem to have lost the little lizard from Salsa somewhere along the way.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Homeschooling the Teen Years - Pulling Double Duty as Parents and Educators for Year-end Events

A week ago, we attended A(age 18)'s graduation from junior college. I can't help but to compare and contrast the roll of "parent" at an event like that verses that of "parent/educator" at a similar homeschooling event, like a say a homeschool prom (which we happened to have had this weekend)
or graduation (which is coming up, for us, next weekend).

Last weekend, we got to do the parent thing.  We ordered and sent out announcements, threw a party for our grad and her friends, and snapped a few photos.  Other than that, all we had to do was show up (making sure everyone had something vaguely appropriate to wear).

There were school officials taking care of all the rest of the details from sign-in to clean up.

They had set up fun little photo stations around the school.

They provided cupcakes and coffee afterwards (I didn't get a picture, but there was a lovely little spread complete with silver trays and teapots).  They even live-streamed the whole thing for friends and relatives who couldn't make it. It was very nice.

Our homeschool prom was very nice too.

But, on top of preparing girls' dresses, doing their hair, and snapping photos...

… there were planning meetings, and crafting sessions, cupcakes and cookies to be baked (actually an entire dinner was parent provided).

Parents set-up, chaperoned, did dishes, and even cleaned bathrooms (some staying well into the next morning).

 In our case, the Man of the House chaperoned, I did dishes, and C (age 12 and too young to officially attend) served tables.

There was also a last second (parent led) scramble to purchase a small thank you gift and card for the fantastic homeschool mom who organized the whole thing (and made our amounts of work look small in comparison).

It was a lot of work.

The homeschool graduation next week will be a lot of work, too.  I just saw the schedule assuring parents that we ought to have all the clean-up done by 3:00 o'clock in the afternoon.  Set-up will take place the day before, grads show up at 9:00 in the morning for a walk-thru and pictures (taken by one of the parents, I'm sure), the graduation will take place at 11:00 with a light (parent provided) lunch reception to follow, and then the clean-up.

Which reminds me - I still have to set up a "thank you" group on Facebook to find out which of us will run out for a card and gift for the lucky lady in charge of this event, as well.

It's a lot of work.  In the end, the trade off of being able to be there for the teens, and getting to be a part of their day - to mold it and personalize it for them in ways we couldn't as just parents is completely worth it.

But it's a lot work.

It's great (if sometimes exhausting) to be a homeschooler.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Homeschooling the Teen Years - Summer Vacation for Unschoolers

I declared it "summer break" yesterday. 

It was sometime in the morning, between running C (age 12) to be measured for her costume for her part in a summer musical and learning that E (age 14) and C had volunteered to help build sets (which is going to be a great learning experience, because this particular troupe goes all out on their sets), helping D (age 16) put a resume together, "helping" T (age 21) rescue a baby bunny (we have two nests of them in our backyard) from a basement window-well...

...retrieving A (age 18) from work only to accompany her straight to a decorating session for this year's homeschool prom, and all the while compiling a packing list in my head (I really need to get it down on paper) for E (who is heading out on a multi-state road trip in a couple of weeks) and A (who is heading to China).

We simply don't have time to do school anymore this spring.  Not that I'm sure I know what's school and what's life in house these days.  I might have said it was our formal math lessons, but D announced that he's enjoying where he's at right now so much he'd like to see it through a while longer on his own.

E will be studying American history and geography in preparation for her trip.

A will be cramming in as much Chinese as she can (and hopefully a little history and geography there too).

T has already declared that with his classes done for the summer (his university finals were two weeks ago) he has several books he wants to catch up on, an exercise program to put into action, and a new Japanese language app he'd like to try out.

C bought herself a hardback journal for a story she's been wanting to write, and she has an upcoming father-daughter camping trip where she should be able to get in some fishing, target practice (and gun safety lessons) and lessons in campfire cooking.

And that's not to mention the upcoming weeks of summer camp, driver's ed, a Bakery Boss Jr. day camp, CPR for babysitters, a couple of concert, and Shakespeare in the Park.

Honestly, I had to chuckle when my youngest two celebrated the announcement of summer break and called all their friends to spread the good news.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Homeschooling the Teen Years - Memory Making Moments

It's not too often I get to craft with my children, anymore.  As they've moved into their middle and high school years, they've embraced arts more than crafts, and have left my cutesy crafting style behind in our sentimental past.

So, when A(age 18) asked for help decorating the mortar boards (grad caps) for her junior college...

...and upcoming homeschool graduations...

...at 10 o'clock at night, just as I was heading off to bed, I said yes.  And, I'm so glad I did.  The crafting wasn't difficult.  She'd already found a design she liked on Pinterest, sort of a private joke between her and her fellow thespians referring back to the role she played in an adaptation of Alice in Wonderland, last fall.

So it was just a matter of cutting out a couple of crowns from a sheet of peel-and-stick, glitter coated, fun foam, and arranging stick on letters (Medium Champagne Glitter Letter Stickers by Reflections from Michael's) around them.  We took our time, talking, laughing, arranging and rearranging into the night.  It felt like one of those magic, memory making moments when time stands still.

Of course by the next morning, I knew that it hadn't, but that was okay too.  A groggy morning was worth a night of crafting with my teen.  Those opportunities are rare, and not to be wasted.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Stop the Anti-College Nonsense!!!

I keep seeing anti-college memes being shared across social media.  You know the ones?  With Jim or Jane or whoever, the silly student who is racking up ridiculous amounts of college debt, studying "worthless" subjects, and facing future unemployment...
Drawing by E (age 14)

… while their non-college friend Joe or Jack or whoever, who they happen to look down upon is working through a paid internship leading to a high wage job, and ultimate superiority over their college educated peers.

These memes annoy me, probably more than they should.  They employ straw man fallacies, setting up arguments that aren't true, but are easily ridiculed and knocked down.

I've said before that we don't believe college is for everyone.  But at the same time, a college degree can be an excellent tool for some.  It is possible to celebrate and promote one type of success without demeaning the other.

Not all college students are beer swilling, party animals.  Not all college students amass large student loans.  Not all college degrees are worthless (quite the opposite!).

Not all blue collar workers are bringing in large salaries.  Not all blue collar workers have easily found apprenticeships, or steady employment.  Not that a high salary or short-cut into the workforce are the be all and end all of life, anyway.

With that said, if you are still wondering what the purpose of a liberal arts education might possibly be, let me point you to The Modern Scholar Series: How To Think, The Liberal Arts and Their Enduring Value featuring Professor Michael D.C. Drout of Wheaton College.  Professor Drout does an excellent job defending the liberal arts.

And, while I'm on my soap box, let me add, that while a bachelor's degree might not open every door, there are some doors that will remain not only closed, but locked without one.

Along that line, I did a quick search through Wikipedia this afternoon, and found that of our fifty governors currently serving, all have had some college, all but two (from Missouri and Utah) have at least a bachelor's degree, and thirty of them hold graduate level degrees.

Do you have to have a college degree in order to become the governor of your state?  Apparently not.  Will it help?  It just might.

So, before you click a "like" on one those ridiculous, anti-college memes, or even worse - a "share", please stop and consider, that while college might not be for you, it can be for others.  I for one would like to have well educated doctors, architects, engineers, judges, and even teachers living in this country in the future, every bit as much as I hope to be able to find well-trained plumbers, carpenters, and appliance repairmen.  In fact, I wouldn't mind having a nice variety of any of those within or own family.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

Monday, May 6, 2019

A Monopoly Mix-Up Game Day Grad Party

We decided to throw A (age 18) a simple game day style party to celebrate her graduation.  At least it sounded simple to begin with.  That was before I saw her guest list, and realized we could have anywhere from 5 to 30 teens and twenty-somethings showing up.

She was hoping for a game where everyone could play together.

After sorting through our games we quickly realized, that other than Bunco (which we have not had good luck playing with the younger crowd) or something like charades, we don't have any games that can accommodate so many players.  We do have an unusual number of differently themed Monopoly games (Star Wars themed, Cheater's edition, Bible-opoly, etc.) though, and that gave us an idea.

For the party, we set our games up, ready for four players at each table.

We tried to pick games that each had something of quirk to them, rather than just themed versions that still played exactly the same as the original game.

At each table we set-up the boards, picked and placed the four tokens, readied the bank (if the game had one), and divvied out the initial allotments of Monopoly money to each player.

In front of each player's chair, on the tables, was a colored star - a red, blue, green, and yellow for each table, representing the four teams for the evening.

We assigned each of the tokens on the boards (ahead of time) a color, and wrote out a key on a white board, visible from anywhere in the room.

After the players were all seated (with adults filling in, until late-comers arrived), we gave them matching stars on their hands, so they would be able to keep track of which team they were on, know where to sit when they moved tables, and be able to look-up at the key to know which token was theirs.

Our family took seats on the same team so, theoretically at least, there would always be at least one person at each table who was familiar with the game.  This went out the window a bit after we had to set-up a seventh table/game (we had initially planned for five tables, with a sixth set-up as a back-up).  We had the rules in easy reach on each table though, so it all worked out.  I can't say the games were played correctly all evening, but they were played.

Once we had everyone seated and ready to play, we set a kitchen timer for 10 minutes.

Each table took a few minutes to orientate themselves to their games...

… and then started to play.

At the end of the ten minutes, when the timer went off, the tables finished off whatever turn was in play, and then laid down their cards or pieces, as neatly as possible, in front of their chairs, leaving their tokens in place on the boards.

The blue and red teams changes tables, moving to the next table over in a clockwise direction, while the yellow and green teams moved counter-clockwise (it was chaotic, but manageable)...

… the timer was reset, and play continued.  That way, every ten minutes, players were playing a different game, with two new people at their table.  As games were won, the winner called out the color of their team for the win, and we marked them on the board.  Then, that table reset their game and continued playing.

Once players had made it to every table, the team with the most wins for the evening was announced as the winner.  We had a tie between two teams, so the two teams counted the money in their hands, and the team with the most money won.

Prizes (packs of fake mustaches) were awarded, and everyone moved one room over for cake, snacks, and a short, student made video of our grad's high school years.

Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, and our grad had a fantastic time, so I'm counting it as a success.

It's great to be a homeschooler.